— Saint Anthony Falls Heritage Trail —
Minneapolis on the west bank of the river quickly overtook St. Anthony on the east side. A major reason was more efficient use of water power. In 1857 the Minneapolis Mill Company started to build a canal along South First Street. Enlarged and extended several times, it provided waterpower to a total of 25assorted factories and mills by 1871.
As flour production boomed in the 1870s, other industries were crowded out. From the 1880s through the 1920s, some two dozen flour mills lined the canal on both sides. Grain elevators, machine shops, barrel factories, and other facilities clustered around. Flour milling was not labor intensive. It dependedmore on machines than men, and employees were generally well paid. Although unions formed in other industries, they made little headway among mill workers until after World War I. After 1930 Minneapolis's fifty-year leadership in flour millingpassed to other places. One by one milling operations ceased. An era ended in 1965 when General Mills closed its mills at the falls and moved to Golden Valley. The St. Anthony Falls Historic District was created in 1971, and the Washburn A Mill became a National Historic Landmark in 1983. Devastatedby fire in 1991, it survives as a dramatic ruin. Most of the other mills have been torn down or adapted to different uses. Under the ground there remains an intricate system of canals, water gates, raceways, and turbine pits, along with foundations of many mills.
marker photo captions:
To the lower right, the Stone Arch Bridge curves across Upton Island, now the location of the Upper Lock and the activities of the US ArmyCorps of Engineers. Minneapolis was still the country's top producer of flour when this aerial photograph was taken in the 1920s.
Looking south along First Street during reconstruction of the waterpower canal in 1885. The canal shown is being covered with a plank roadway for wagons. In the background, a second-story railroad trestle is being rebuilt.
Barrel-making was an important industry at the falls, with over two million barrels produced in 1880. Flour was stored and shipped in wooden barrels until the turn of the century when cloth sacks came into use. The picture shows empty barrels being loaded into theWashburn A Mill.
Flour produced at the Washburn Mill won a gold medal at the International Millers Convention in 1880, and Gold Medal Flour became a brand name known worldwide. The Washburn-Crosby Company became General Mills, Inc. in 1928, and the company still produces Gold Medal Flour.